One would think that it would be easy to add dependents to VA Disability Claims.
If that’s what you think, you’d be wrong. Questions about dependent payments in VA claims are on the list of Top 10 questions that Veterans ask me when they reach out to contact me.
I’m going to try to answer a few of those questions here.
Read all the way to the end, and see if you can answer a TOUGH question about adding dependents to VA Disability claims that was sent to me by one Veteran.
Who Counts as a Dependent for VA Disability?
With some exceptions, anyone who you can claim as a dependent for income tax purposes can be claimed as a dependent for VA Disability Claims.
This includes: wives, husbands, children, step-children (exceptions exist), adopted children (exceptions exist), parents (exceptions exist).
We’ll cover all those exceptions over time – while they are rare today, in the coming years they will be increasingly more common as the OIF/OEF Veterans return home and settle into civilian lives and start to get hit by the latent disabilities that always come from military service.
When is the Best Time to Add Dependents to VA Disability?
The best time to add dependents is when you file your claim. Get the information on file and then you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Most Veterans hem and haw about getting the information about VA Disability dependents in to the VA. Why?
Because they won’t see any increase in VA Disability until they reach the 30% VA Disability level, they save it to worry about later.
In fact, when you get an increase in your VA Disability rating that takes you above the 30% marker, you have 1 year to file your dependency information to get the same effective date for your dependents as you did for the claim that got you above 30%.
If you miss that deadline, you stand to lose 1 year – or more – of past due benefits.
And for folks on a fixed income, the difference in VA disability rates for having dependents can make a real difference in your monthly compensation.
How Do you Add Dependents to VA Disability?
As I mentioned above, the best way to add dependents to VA Disability Claims is to do so with your original claim. When you submit VA Form 21-526, or fill out a claims form online, be sure to include the correct information.
The VA is required to accept your statement as to marriage, birth, divorce, etc, so long as your statement includes:
- the date (month and year) and place of the event;
- the full name and relationship of the other person to the claimant;
- and, where the claimant’s dependent child does not reside with the claimant, the name and address of the person who has custody of the child.
- In addition, a claimant must provide the social security number of any dependent on whose behalf he or she is seeking benefits.
Another way to add dependents to VA Disability claims is to hop on eBenefits and add your dependent.
I STRONGLY recommend keeping copies of everything you send to the VA via eBenefits, and if the VA doesn’t acknowledge receipt of it in 2 weeks, send paper in the mail to the Evidence Intake Center.
I don’t yet trust eBenefits.
Not only because my own claim shows a BVA Hearing was held before I ever filed the claim, but also because I have heard – and seen – countless stories of Veterans submitting claims or evidence via eBenefits and having it vaporize – disappear into the cloud.
So if you do use eBenefits – and that is your choice entirely – keep backup copies of everything!
Now….your dependent situation may change while you are collecting VA benefits – be sure to notify the VA right away if you have a DECREASE in the number of dependents (due to divorce, death, aging out for children, etc).
Because while the VA will take FOREVER to process your VA Form 21-686c, they are quick to come knocking when they fear there is an overpayment.
Download a copy of VA Form 21-686c from the VA’s website by clicking here.
And know…the million dollar question:
When you Add Dependents to VA Disability Claims, what is the RIGHT effective Date?
Did You Know?USC stands for United States Code. It is the laws as approved by Congress and signed into law by the President.
Did You Know?CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations. It is the regulations which the Executive Branch writes to take action when a new law is enacted.